Friday, August 31, 2018

A Finnish Poetry Hour. With Music

First this one.  It's a poem by Kaarlo Sarkia and particularly important for everyone who feels gloomy and hopeless.

Then this one.  It's a poem by Marja-Leena Mikkola, about a dancing bear, life, art and love. Especially about love.

Both are set to music and I provide rough translations for both poems.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

The Heart And Mind Of The Republican Party, Revisited.

Earlier I wrote a piece about how I see the Republican Party.  It's not based on research but on my own experiences and the opinions those inform.

I recently read that post again and still agree with most of it, except that the problems of the Trump base are putting several of the more traditional type free-market (free-money-for-some) Republican politicians in a real bind, and the same applies to the dilemma of how to accommodate (or not) the increasingly more explicit racism and sexism of the party's new base and of some inside the Trump administration.

Some Republican politicians appear to have made the Faustian bargain.  Paul Ryan might be one of those.*  What he and other free-market Republicans get from Trump is so good** that they are willing to wear blinders and ignore all the Trumpian outrages, Trump's penchant for dictatorship and his groveling adulation of one Vladimir Putin.

I cannot predict how the internal power struggles inside the Republican Party will develop.  But its extreme right wing fringe is currently dragging the party even further to the right, and the impact of such "thinkers" as Stephen Miller inside the Trump administration means that white supremacists/misogynists are emboldened in general.

* Though he is retiring, in order to spend more time with his teenage children.  Right.  He  is probably retiring because he calculates that Trump, like Humpty-Dumpty, is going to have a great fall, and all the Republican congresscritters cannot put him back together again.  This means that Ryan must wait out the coming catastrophe, after which he can return to Washington as the golden money-boy.

** Like much lower taxes for the super-rich, many fewer regulations to protect the workers or the environment.


Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Statistics Can Be Sexy

As this post from 2014 demonstrates.  Well, perhaps not sexy, but very empowering.  If that post turns you on, I have a whole series about introductory statistics, mostly in the context of understanding opinion surveys.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

The Economics of Women And Work. Some Snippets.

1.  Can we prove that sex discrimination exists in the labor markets?  I got asked that question once and this post gives my answer*.  There have been further studies since, but the basic arguments have not changed, which means that reading that post will be good for your weapons arsenal.

2.  Christina Hoff Sommers has argued, most recently on Twitter, that if women really want to close the gender gap in earnings they should change their college major from feminist dance therapy (heh) to electrical engineering.  That it wouldn't work quite like that is something I describe in this post.  And while you are there, read the rest of that series.

3.  I still haven't been able to find a good regression analysis which would allow us to study the interaction effects of sex and race on earnings and so on.  I'm sure that such studies exist, and if you know of one, please leave the link in the comments.  The reason why we need such a study is to see what the relative percentage effects of being black and being female might be on black women's earnings etc (to quantify the effects of intersectionality, if you like).  One study, on the increasing racial inequality on earnings,  suggests that the effect of being female is greater than the effect of being black, though both serve to reduce the earnings of black women, but it doesn't quite do the kinds of analyses I'd like to see.

*  Similar proof exists for racial discrimination, as this meta-analysis of audit studies shows.  Some of its analyses control for gender and find it non-significant, but I'm not quite sure what that means in the context of comparing different studies, some of which had both male and female fictional applicants and some of which did not.  For a shorter summary, see here

Monday, August 27, 2018

The Role of the Media In The Trump Reich

Last September I wrote a post on the Harvard study which analyzed the role of online media in the 2016 presidential elections.  That study tells us what the role of the online media might have been in getting us so much closer to a dictatorship, and I still recommend reading my post for some background.

Whatever the sins, omissions and commissions of that media coverage might have been, currently the most serious problem the press faces is one Donald Trump and his views, expressed in several tweets, that the media is the enemy of the people.

This behavior is typical of dictators who close down any newspapers that criticize the government or even imprison journalists who are not sufficiently adulatory toward the dictator.  Our Dear Leader would love to join that elite group of autocrats!

And a plurality of Republicans seems to agree. A survey conducted by Ipsos and published in early August found that:

All told, 43 percent of self-identified Republicans said that they believed “the president should have the authority to close news outlets engaged in bad behavior.” Only 36 percent disagreed with that statement. When asked if Trump should close down specific outlets, including CNN, The Washington Post, and The New York Times, nearly a quarter of Republicans (23 percent) agreed and 49 percent disagreed.

Republicans were far more likely to take a negative view of the media. Forty-eight percent of them said they believed “the news media is the enemy of the American people” (just 28 percent disagreed) while nearly four out of every five (79 percent) said that they believed “the mainstream media treats President Trump unfairly.”

I wonder what those percentages would have been had Hillary Clinton been the president that those poll statements referred to.  Knowing that would allow us to assess if this new desire for the end of democracy is just the average win-at-any-cost tribalism or if, indeed, a sizable percentage of Americans wants democracy to end.*

While most mainstream newspapers are on Trump's Enemies List, one part of the US media does, however, have a very specific role in the Trump Reich.  Last January Matthew Gertz argued in Politico that Trump uses the conservative media, and, in particular, Fox News, as a source of information for presidenting!

Here’s what’s also shocking: A man with unparalleled access to the world’s most powerful information-gathering machine, with an intelligence budget estimated at $73 billion last year, prefers to rely on conservative cable news hosts to understand current events. 
Alternatively, Fox News now has the role a state-run media organization might have in dictatorships.

So it goes.

Other answers in the survey give me hope that the latter is not the case:

And virtually everyone (85 percent of respondents) believed that “freedom of the press is essential for American democracy” (compared to 4 percent opposed to that statement).
Still, we are left with the dilemma that this belief contradicts the Republican plurality in the above post which would want Trump to have the authority to close down "badly behaving" news outlets.  Those would be the outlets which criticize him, after all, and the press cannot be free if it can be punished for criticizing the president.

And, of course, the continued survival of any kind of democracy also depends on safe election systems.  Right now the belief in their security is totally unwarranted.